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GSK, 23andMe Ink Precision Meds Discovery Deal

Saliva sample kit

23andMe saliva sample collection kit (23andMe)

25 July 2018. Consumer genetics company 23andMe signed a 4-year agreement to help drug maker GlaxoSmithKline, or GSK, find more precise drug targets and recruit clinical trial participants likely to respond to treatments. The deal includes GSK taking a $300 million equity stake in 23andMe, which becomes the pharma company’s exclusive partner on drug target discovery.

The company 23andMe, in Mountain View, California, conducts on-demand genetics testing for individuals to determine their ancestry and genetic traits, or reveal inherited health risks. Customers of these services are given the option to take part in research studies, usually involving surveys, that connect genetic factors and variations with medical conditions. According to the company, more than 80 percent of 23andMe’s 5 million customers agree to take part in these studies.

The agreement calls for 23andMe to offer its genetic and medical conditions databases, as well as its analytical services, to identify more precise targets for GSK experimental drugs. This more precise target identification is expected to improve the likelihood of the drugs’ success and reduce adverse effects. The deal includes 23andMe’s early-stage research programs that the company says covers a range of disease types.

Among the conditions under study by 23andMe is Parkinson’s disease, where as reported by Science & Enterprise in October 2017, the company and Michael J. Fox Foundation are recruiting a large group of individuals with and without the disorder to provide a more complete picture of the disease. GSK, based in London, is developing a Parkinson’s disease therapy that inhibits the actions of leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 or LRRK2 enzymes, considered a promising target for treatments, which is expected to be an early subject for analysis in the partnership.

The agreement also calls for 23andMe to identify groups of individuals most likely to respond to targeted treatments. The large number of customers taking part in the company’s research programs are expected to enable 23andMe make the needed statistical connections to identify these specific groups of potential patients. The companies say all participant data have personal identifications removed and are protected throughout their collection and analysis. In addition, 23and Me will help GSK identify and recruit clinical trial participants, including those for upcoming clinical studies of LRRK2 inhibitors.

The deal’s announcement gives few financial details, but the companies are expected to equally divide costs of the joint research efforts, at least at first, with adjustments negotiated later on if needed. Likewise, GSK and 23andMe are expected to divide proceeds of new treatments arising from the collaboration. And GSK is making a $300 million equity investment in 23andMe.

“We all have some disease or health issue that we care about,” says Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe in a company blog post. “By working with GSK, we believe 23andMe’s scientists and researchers can more quickly make the kind of breakthroughs that make a difference.” Hal Barron, GSK’s chief scientist and president of R&D, adds in a company statement that the partnership, “will help to shift our research and development organization to be ‘driven by genetics’, and increase the impact GSK can have on patients.”

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